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New analysis proposes energy-efficient upgrades for WA social housing could save millions


A new report by Shelter WA, the peak body for community housing and homelessness services, suggests that the Cook Government could reduce energy bills for social housing renters by up to $50 million annually through energy efficiency upgrades.

The organization has advised the government to retrofit all of Western Australia’s 42,000 social housing dwellings by 2030, with a focus on remote communities and regions experiencing extremely hot climates.

The proposed ‘Healthy Homes’ retrofit package includes the installation of ceiling fans, flyscreens, curtains, insulation, draught sealing, reverse cycle air conditioners, efficient electric hot water systems, and solar panels.

Additionally, Shelter WA advocates for the installation of individual or community battery systems in areas with extreme climates, alongside an energy efficiency audit program for all social housing.

Based on analysis previously commissioned by ACOSS, such retrofits could save tenants between approximately $780 and $1,500 each year on their energy bills.

Kath Snell, Shelter WA’s chief executive, emphasized the benefits of the package, particularly for households most in need.

“From Kununurra to Karratha, Carnarvon to Kalgoorlie, and even in the urban heat islands of Perth’s metropolitan areas, many social housing tenants are sweltering through extreme heats with no air conditioners or ceiling fans, and struggling to afford to pay the power bills that they have racked up from using inefficient cooling systems,” she said. “Likewise, in many parts of the state, from Bunbury to Bremer Bay, social housing tenants struggle to keep their poorly insulated homes warm efficiently during our cold winters.”


Snell highlighted that the ‘Healthy Homes’ package aims to combat energy poverty in Western Australia, noting the significant portion of income that people pay towards energy bills in the most energy-inefficient homes.

“We know having a comfortable, energy efficient home is good for the health, happiness and wallets of renters,” she added.

Snell argued that retrofitting social housing for energy efficiency represents a low-cost, high-impact opportunity to reduce living costs, improve living standards for renters, and support community decarbonization.

“In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, the government would get a better return on investment and create a greater legacy if it delivers budget measures that reduce expensive energy bills permanently, more so than through one-off rebates,” Snell explained.

She further mentioned that improving the energy efficiency of social housing aligns with prior government initiatives like the Smart Energy for Social Housing pilot and the installation of waterwise fixtures in public housing.

Snell emphasized that such measures would not only support the government’s plan to set minimum standards for rental homes but also contribute to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions, creating a win-win situation for both people and the environment.

Shelter WA proposes a statewide ‘Healthy Homes’ energy efficiency retrofit costing $152 million over three years for the first 10,000 public housing properties, and $486.4 million for the remaining 32,000 public and community housing dwellings by 2030.

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